Car Seat Installation

Tips to Keep Kids Buckled In Safely

As a parent or grandparent, you want to make sure children are safe when you’re in the driver’s seat. Among the most important steps you can take: Installing a car seat properly.

For Seat Belt Installations

If your car seat is held in place using the car’s seatbelts:

  • Place the car seat in the back seat of your vehicle and thread the seat belt through the rear-facing belt path. Then buckle and lock the seat belt.
  • Tighten the car seat by pressing down firmly so that it cannot shift more than one inch from side-to-side or front-to-back.
  • Very small infants must be in a semi-reclined position to keep their airway open. Be sure that the seat you’ve just installed is at the proper angle. (Most car seats will have an angle-indicator.)
  • As you harness your child, make sure that all straps are lying flat. The chest clip should be at armpit level as you buckle and it should be tight enough so there is no extra slack at the shoulder.

Want to make sure you’re getting it right? Check out the owner’s manual for both the car seat and car before beginning the installation process.

For LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) Installations

The LATCH system was designed to make car seat installation easier. Anchors are small metal bars easily visible in the backseat of many vehicles, while tethers (or LATCH straps) now come on many car seats to attach the seats to the anchors. If you have a LATCH system in your car and on your car seat:

  • Set the car seat in the back seat of your vehicle.
  • Find the lower anchors and attach the lower straps on the car seat to the lower anchors.
  • Check for twisted straps and straighten any you may find.
  • Tighten the car seat by pressing down firmly so that it cannot shift more than one inch from side-to-side or front-to-back.
  • Very small infants must be in a semi-reclined position to keep their airway open. Be sure that the seat you’ve just installed is at the proper angle. (Most car seats will have an angle-indicator.)
  • Now, connect the infant carrier to the base. As you harness your child, make sure that all straps are lying flat. The chest clip should be at armpit level as you buckle and it should be tight enough so there is no extra slack at the shoulder.

As a side note, rear-facing car seats are the safest for infants and small children as they provide extra protection for their head, neck and spinal cord.

For Booster Seats

In the event of an accident, a young child too big for a car seat but too small for an adult seat belt can actually be injured without the protection of a booster seat, which raises their position and helps them better fit into an adult seat belt.

  • Set the booster seat on the back seat of your vehicle and have your child sit in it.
  • Fasten the seat belt around your child and check that it fits properly. The lap belt should sit snuggly across the child’s upper thighs while the shoulder belt sits comfortably across their chest.

Keep your child in their car seat or booster seat until they reach the height and weight maximums. What’s more, keep them in the backseat until they are at least 12. For more information, please visit www.safercar.gov/parents/RightFit.htm.